School renovation plan will head to Town Meetings

Mar 26, 2019

MARION —  The school media room was filled with students, teachers and parents as the Old Rochester Regional School District unanimously approved of a $2 million dollar renovation plan of Old Rochester High School on March 26. 

The main stadium field will be resurfaced with artificial turf according to the proposal presentation. It also called for a new six lane track and to rebuild the grass infield. LED lights for the main stadium field as well as a digital LED light system and audio system, upgrades to wiring and the addition to monitors for the auditorium are also a part of the project.

The project was originally proposed by the Tri-town Unified Recreational Facilities non profit in 2015, and included a more expansive set of outdoor renovations that would have cost $5 million even without the auditorium renovations. After resident feedback, organizers scaled the project back to cut its cost. Earlier this month, a second group, Restore ORR, launched to try to implement the second plan. 

According to Restore ORR materials, the average homeowner would pay $19.57 per year in Mattapoisett, $25.11 per year in Marion and $34.39 per year in Rochester if the plan passes Town Meetings. 

Member of Old Rochester High School Committee’s Facilities Subcommittee, Shaun Walsh, said he was delighted with the board approval. “I am very pleased that the school committee took the unanimous vote to approve the project,” said Walsh, “it’s something we’ve been working on for almost three years and it’s nice to finally see it coming closer to reality.”

According to the ORR’s presentation, the overuse of the field has caused conditions that might not pass safety standards. The field has poor drainage which in turn caused multiple practice and game cancellations. The top layer of the track field, is cracking and worn down to the tar base. There have been issues with the lighting outages on the main stadium field. A third of the auditorium lighting is not functioning, the school has difficulty replacing parts and the bulbs run hot. 

Old Rochester High School Sophomore Jared Achorn, who attended the board meeting said he was glad to see the project approved. Achorn said he saw firsthand the condition of the field as an athlete. He said he hasn’t talked to anyone that disapproves of it. “I think it’s great to change the field, the field is in critical condition right now, not just the football field but the track, baseball field, everything,” Achorn said, “I play football and baseball so I’m excited.” 

The project will go to annual town meetings in Mattapoisett, Rochester and Marion for approval.

ORR School Committee member Heather Burke said she was happy to see high school students at the meeting and encouraged the students at the meeting to vote at their annual town hall meetings.

“It was really great to see so many students and student athletes here at the meeting tonight but we really need them, especially the ones who are 18, to come to their respective town meetings and to vote on the funding of the initiative,” said Burke, “without that type of support at the meeting, the proposal may not get funded and so we really need them to come and vote and do their civic duty.”